Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Glass Universe


THE GLASS UNIVERSE
How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars
By Dava Sobel
2016. Hardcover. 320pp. Viking.

In a time when women were expected to do the work astronomers couldn’t be bothered to do, the women of Harvard Observatory took control of their own stargazing and worked their way into standing as women of science. After the death of her astronomer husband, Mrs. Anna Draper wanted to continue his legacy of stellar photography. She donated money to the Harvard Observatory, under the direction of Edward Charles Pickering, to continue research into the stars using stellar photography. The women working under Pickering started as the wives, sisters, and daughters of the astronomers, but slowly began to shift to women studying or recently graduated from the women’s colleges.
Over the span of the work, the Observatory amassed approximately half a million plates that captured the night sky for years. Using these plates, Williamina Fleming, Annie Jump Cannon, Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne-Gaposhkin, and the other women of the Observatory were able to revolutionize their roles as members of the Observatory.
Written by Dava Sobel, author of Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, the book spans from Mrs. Draper’s project’s beginning to Dr. Payne-Gaposhkin becoming the first female professor of Harvard. With Pickering’s ability to find funding, the women were able to work to shine in their field as much as the stars they studied, leaving behind legacies written about even now.

Looking at the space advancements and studies we have today, from the Apollo missions to the more recent Cassini, it’s hard to think back to this time period. Sobel’s goal, to bring to light the women who would otherwise remain in the dark observatory of the 1880s, is well-realized, although a lot of the focus seems to be on Pickering and less on the women themselves. The stories don’t get too caught up in being flowery, nor do they stray too far into the scientific, but I do wish there was more about the women and their lives in the book. Pickering was instrumental in their successes, however I frequently felt as though I knew more about Pickering than the women themselves.
Sobel’s focus on Annie Jump Cannon, however, was well-realized, even though I didn’t realize the extent of her contribution to modern science. As she continued to gain renown through the novel’s detailed events, I was amazed at how much she accomplished in her lifetime. The fact that we have had so many advancements in technology since she identified her classification system, from our increased ability to identify stars and record their data, and yet we continue to use the classification system she outlined in the late 1800s is astounding to me. It shows that our technological advancements didn’t make the older discoveries obsolete, as we often believe to be the case. It was especially inspiring to see the legacy these women left for others who wanted to be a part of astronomy, but would have been disregarded because of their gender.

If you like to learn about astronomy and its history, I highly recommend this book. It’s a bit dry and a slow read, but definitely worth it. I enjoy listening to Planetary Radio’s podcast and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk, so this was very much in line with those interests. Of course, if you enjoyed this book and want further material, I highly recommend both of those podcasts.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Summer of You

THE SUMMER OF YOU
The Blue Raven, #2
By Kate Noble
2010. Paperback. 352pp. Berkley Trade.

After the adventures in London, Byrne Worth has retreated to his cottage on Merrymere Lake, where he is unbothered in his solitude. He likes it this way, he tells himself, he has his daily swim and no one around to bother him. At least, until Lady Jane Cummings and her family return to Merrymere.
Lady Jane is not having the summer she wanted. She was looking forward to spending time socializing in London, it serves as a nice break from dealing with her ailing father and the responsibilities of running the household while her brother is away. Unfortunately, her brother has returned and decided he’s back in charge.
Kate Noble’s second book in the Blue Raven Series, The Summer of You follows Lady Jane Cummings to Merrymere Lake after her brother returns from his travels and decides it’s better for their father to be at Merrymere. He thinks she’ll go quietly like a good young woman, but she isn’t going without a fight. As her father’s condition gets worse and her brother continues avoiding the responsibilities, Lady Jane finds a surprising confidant in Byrne Worth. The town has decided he’s the highwayman robbing them in their travels, but Lady Jane is not so convinced. She comes up with a plan to help clear his name and he begrudgingly goes along with it. Along the way, they both realize maybe trying to do things on their own isn’t always the best way and maybe it’s easier with a supporter.

Although most romance novels can feel old hat, Kate Noble’s work always feels so refreshing, even after reading a few in a row! I was feeling a bit down the night I read this book and it definitely helped. They mystery was well-written and just as central to the novel as the romance and the sub-plots. Of course, there was the “next in the series” couple set-up, but I even found that couple to be charming rather than trite! One thing that always particularly impresses me about Noble’s writing is the characterizations. The women aren’t what would normally “go” in the time period, but they’re well-written and well-fleshed out, so it’s easy enough to believe these characters would know each other and get along as they do in the books. It’s also easy to see that she does her research for the time period and the locations. I’ve traveled a bit in England and Ireland and the settings are fully realized and historically plausible. It’s always nice to read something where the author clearly cares as much about the accuracy of the setting as they do the accuracy of their characters.

Grumpy man meets charming woman and is changed is a standard trope in romance novels, as well as teaming up to solve a mystery. Although there were a few obvious “twists” to the story, they weren’t trying. It’s easy to get caught in keeping the story in the boundaries of the genre and Noble doesn’t stray too far from the “usual” romance storyline, but the characters and the story were enjoyable nonetheless. There were even a few non-standard surprises thrown in for variety. I really disliked Lady Jane’s brother and was very pleased when he finally got over himself towards the end of the book.

If you’ve gotten tired of the popular romance authors, give Kate Noble’s books a try! She’s written a few romance novels under the name Kate Noble, as well as The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet and The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet as Kate Rorick. Her romance novels (as well as the Pride and Prejudice video series she started out working on) are refreshing takes on a genre that can be full of over-done tropes and storylines.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Dare and the Doctor

★★★★★
THE DARE AND THE DOCTOR by Kate Noble

Series #: Winner Takes All, #3
Genre: Fiction, Trashy Romance, Historical
Original Publication Date: 2016


Review

Read: 28 Feb 2017

Summary: The conclusion to the Winner Takes All series, The Dare and the Doctor doesn’t disappoint. Dr. Rhys Gray and Ms. Margaret Babcock are friends and scientific correspondences. When Margaret gets the chance to present the flowers she’s been working on to the top scientific minds in London, Rhys does everything he can to help her brave the stodgy old men. Sparks begin to fly between the two, but when a chance meeting throws everything out of balance, how will Rhys solve a problem created by his absent father? How will Margaret handle these new feelings?

Review: A very satisfactory ending to the trilogy. I genuinely wasn’t expecting some of the twists that happened in the story, so it was refreshing, as Kate Noble often is. Somehow, her books always feel like the perfect summer beachside romance novels. Just the right balance of romance and …ahem… other, with well-written characters and believable, but still slightly over-the-top and adventurous stories. This one in particular, with Margaret trying to get recognition as a woman in science, impressed me with Noble’s depth of research.

Recommendation: I highly recommend Noble if you like well-researched historic romance and want something refreshing.


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Publisher: Pocket Books
Edition ISBN: 9781476749402

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Lie and the Lady


★★★★★
THE LIE AND THE LADY by Kate Noble

Series #: Winner Takes All, #2
Genre: Fiction, Trashy Romance, Historical
Original Publication Date: 2015


Review

Read: 22 Feb 2017

Summary: In The Game and the Governess, John Turner made a bet with his friend, Lord Edward Granville, that the lord would have a harder time with women as John Turner, who subsequently would have an easier time as Lord Granville. When the Lord fell in love with a governess and the game was up, Turner had also fallen in love with Countess Letitia, who is publicly humiliated for falling for a man of lower stature. She travels the continent, looking for a fresh start and thinks she’s found it in Sir Barty, but when he takes her home as his fiancé, John Turner is there. Life continues to throw the two of them together and Leticia must decide if she wants to keep her standing or go for love.

Review: Even though it’s been a while since I read the first book, I still really enjoyed this one. I sort of wish I’d been able to re-read the first one before starting the second, but I still remembered the characters. I spent a lot of the book predicting what was going to happen, but I still loved it. There are always distinct patterns in romance novels, but I am always willing to re-read my favorite books and especially willing to re-read my favorite tropes.

Recommendation: I highly recommend Kate Noble if you like historic romance and want to give something new a chance.


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Publisher: Pocket Books

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Book Review: A Study in Scarlet Women


★★★★★
A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN by Sherry Thomas

Series #: Lady Sherlock, #1
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Mystery, History, Adventure
Original Publication Date: 2016


Review

Read: 28 Dec 2016 – 04 Jan 2017

Summary: Charlotte Holmes is tired of the constraints of a female in society; it’s a waste of her mind and her life. So she ruins her reputation to get out from under her family and society and live as a free woman. Unfortunately, Charlotte learns it’s hard to live as a woman cast from society, luckily she has her consulting detective alter ego to fall back on: “Sherlock Holmes”. Already consulting with the police as Sherlock, Charlotte sends a letter to Inspector Lestrade containing a suggestion that can’t be taken back and launching an inspection that can’t be stopped. As Charlotte finds her way as an independent woman, she must also find a way as the consulting detective.

Review: At first, it started a little slowly, but that’s true of the original Sherlock books and stories. I loved the way the hardships of being an overly clever woman in the era are depicted as being vastly different than those of being an overly clever man. After all, Charlotte finds it’s easier to be taken seriously by society as the genius detective Sherlock than the genius society-woman Charlotte. The characters were great adaptations of their originals, but I especially liked the changes that were made. Thomas made a few changes to every character without losing sight of their inspiration. So far, there’s no information about the sequel, but I’m looking forward to it.

Recommendation: If you like unruly women in a realist Victorian era and mysteries and intrigue, I highly recommend this book. I first read about it in an NPR article, which I also recommend.


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Publisher: Berkley
Edition ISBN: 9780425281406

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Book Review: Compromised


★★★★★
COMPROMISED by Kate Noble

Genre: Fiction, History, Trashy Romance
Original Publication Date: 2008


Review

Read: 29 Nov 2016

Summary: Gail Alton is used to moving around the continent and traveling the world with her family, but when her father remarries and decides it’s time to move back to London so Gail and her sister, Evangeline, can have a proper season, Gail finds she has a lot more than a step-mother to get accustomed to. One of the first things she has to get accustomed to is a “too-handsome-by-far” gentleman who rides her and her mare into the lake, and then ends up in a compromising position with her sister. Now she has to deal with him being around and courting her sister. Unfortunately for both of them, the sparks seem to fly more readily between the mismatched pair than the gentleman and his betrothed. Will both sisters be able to reconcile the sparks they have for the wrong man and their duty to do the right thing in society?

Review: I’m going to start this by saying, worry not, Evangeline isn’t left out to dry and isn’t a wicked sister. In fact, it was very refreshing to read about the two women supporting each other, very reminiscent of the relationship between Elizabeth and Jane in Pride and Prejudice. Gail and Evangeline are beautiful young women who meet beautiful young men, but they happen to fall in love with the “wrong” one. I loved the way the conflict centered around the girls struggling against society instead of struggling against each other and, in the end, even the step-mother turns out to be not-so-wicked after all. I absolutely love Kate Noble’s writing and can’t wait to pick up another of her books!

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book to romance lovers, especially those who like period romances.


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Publisher: Berkley
Edition ISBN: 9780425219645

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Book Review: The Black Dahlia


★★★☆☆
THE BLACK DAHLIA: THE CRIME GRAPHIC NOVEL by Matz (Adapted by), James Ellroy (Creator), David Fincher (Adapted by), Miles Hyman (Illustrations)

Genre: Fiction, Comic, Graphic Novel, Mystery, History
Original Publication Date: 2016


Review

Read: 26 Sep 2016

Summary: When a beautiful young woman is found brutally murdered, Bucky Bleichart and Lee Blanchard are set to investigate her death. What they find is an unsavory side of Hollywood, which doesn’t prove to be as stark a contrast to their “happy” lives as they originally thought. Their obsession with the case leads both men down dark roads from which they can never properly return.

Review: I won’t lie, I had a lot of trouble telling a lot of the characters apart in this story, especially the two main detectives. They looked so similar and I couldn’t remember which one was which most of the time. It definitely has the 1940s noir detectives down pat: grizzled, plucky, and charming with the ladies. I liked that it looked back at the 1940s with some level of honesty that it wasn’t all glamor and fun, there was an undercurrent of racy scandal behind the glitz.

Recommendation: If you like 40s noir and racy detectives, definitely check this book out.


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Publisher: Archaia
Edition ISBN: 9781608868681

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Book Review: Revealed


★★★★★
REVEALED by Kate Noble

Series #: The Blue Raven, #1
Genre: Fiction, Trashy Romance, History, Mystery, Adventure
Original Publication Date: 2005


Review

Read: 10 – 11 Sep 2016

Summary: Phillippa Benning has done everything she can to make sure she is the belle of everyone’s ball during the Season, so what happens when she goes off for a tryst and overhears a conversation detailing concerns of a secret plot. Luckily for the Blue Raven, Phillippa is a much better investigative partner than the man he hoped would help. Together, the two of them are on their own during the Season, trying to find out who wants to cause harm to the upper echelon of society while still maintaining their own public image in the process.

Review: After reading The Game and the Governess, I wanted to read another Kate Noble book but the second in the Winner Takes All series wasn’t available in my eLibrary. I’m even more convinced that Kate Noble is an amazing author and she’s easily become my favorite romance author, replacing old favorites whose stories have gotten over-used and under-researched. I look forward to reading more of her books and have requested Compromised from the local library!

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book to romance lovers, especially those who like period romances.


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Publisher: Berkley Books
Edition ISBN: 9781101023648

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Game and the Governess


★★★★★
THE GAME AND THE GOVERNESS by Kate Noble

Series #: Winner Takes All, #1
Genre: Fiction, Trashy Romance, History
Original Publication Date: 2014


Review

Read: 08 – 09 Sep 2016

Summary: Friendship forged in battle and made bitter in business might be completely broken in a bet gone too far. John Turner and his best friend, Ned Ashby, have differing outlooks on how a man’s station affects his endeavors with women. So they make a bet, against the warnings of their friend, Dr. Rhys Gray. Ned, an Earl, and John, his secretary, switch places on a trip to one of Ned’s properties where the newly-stationed secretary must woo a woman, and properly. Unfortunately, they don’t bet on meeting a stern Governess, who puts a wrench in what is already a bet gone too far.

Review: I was interested in this book because it’s a combination of things I absolutely love: over-confident men getting themselves into Situations, confident women growing into their True Potentials, and well-researched era-appropriate characters. For added appeal, Kate Noble wrote for Lizzie Bennett Diaries and writes for The Librarians, two of my favorite shows, so I was hooked before I even began and I was not disappointed. In fact, I requested another of Kate Noble’s books before I even finished this one. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next in both this and the other series.

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book to romance lovers, especially those who like period romances.


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Publisher: Pocket Books
Edition ISBN: 9781476749419

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Book Review: Understand Irish History


★★★★☆
UNDERSTAND IRISH HISTORY by Finbar Madden

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Ireland
Original Publication Date: 2010


Review

Read: 16 Jun – 25 Aug 2016

Summary: A clear, concise, yet still detailed overview of Irish history from ancient Ireland to a few year’s before the book’s publication. This book covers everything that might help when moving to, or visiting if you’re a history-oriented person, Ireland. Unfortunately, the history does not cover the past few years, as it was published in 2010.

Review: I first picked this book up in 2013 because I had just come back from studying abroad in Ireland and wanted to know more about the country that was my home for a few years. Unfortunately, I’m not much for reading history texts, so I set it down for a few years since I had moved to China, but when I went back to Ireland for my Master’s in 2015, I picked it back up. It was especially helpful because I was living with Irish housemates (one of whom did history) and missed a lot of the historical callbacks they would joke about. I especially liked the summary pages at the end of each section; it made for handy reference when flipping back to remind myself of what I had previously read.

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book if you want a survey of Irish history that doesn’t spend a lot of time wandering around the topics.


More Info

Publisher: Teach Yourself
Edition ISBN: 9781444105230